They sang his name and, each time they did, Antonio Conte acknowledged that support with respectful applause. At the end the emotion poured out, and he put his fingers to his lips and blew kisses.
On nights like this, when Eden Hazard is firing, the love of the common people is audible and the win is comfortable, it is hard to believe a Chelsea manager could ever be on the rocks in the middle of the season.
Yet that is the conundrum of Stamford Bridge. Monday night’s opponents have already seen off two Chelsea managers in the Roman Abramovich era, being the last league opponents for both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo. Some thought Conte might go the same way if he lost a third straight game for the first time since he was manager at Atalanta in 2009.
Eden Hazard scored twice for Chelsea as they comfortably beat 20th-placed West Brom 3-0 in the Premier League
Hazard celebrates his second goal of the night after putting Chelsea 3-0 ahead in the 71st minute at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea’s main man is mobbed by Cesc Fabregas and Co after putting his side 3-0 ahead on Monday night
Hazard has scored more Premier League goals against West Brom (7) than he has against any other team in the league
Victor Moses put Chelsea 2-0 in front in the 63rd minute with a calm finish against Alan Pardew’s struggling Baggies
The 27-year-old wheels off to celebrate in front of the Chelsea fans after putting his side into a commanding lead
The wing-back performs a handstand in front of the jubilant home support on Monday night in the second half
Moses slots the ball to the right of Ben Foster to double the hosts’ lead on Monday in the Premier League clash
This is how Hazard linked up with new Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud to score the first goal of the night
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois 7; Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 6.5 (Cahill 74), Rudiger 7; Moses 6.5, Kante 7, Fabregas 7, Zappacosta 6.5; Pedro 7 (Willian 80), Giroud 7 (Morata 61 6.5), Hazard 9.
Subs: Caballero, Ampadu, Emerson, Drinkwater.
Goals: Hazard 25, 71; Moses 63
West Brom (3-5-2): Foster 5; Dawson 6, Hegazi 6.5, Evans 6.5; Phillips 6, Brunt 5 (Burke 46, 6), Barry 6.5 (Yacob 80), Krychowiak 5.5, Gibbs 6.5; Sturridge 4 (Rodriguez 4, 6), Rondon 5.
Subs: Myhill, Nyom, Yacob, McClean, McAuley. Booked: Evans, Gibbs.
Referee: Lee Mason – 6
Att: 41, 071
Yet this West Brom are a very different proposition — rooted to the bottom of the Premier League and losing ground week by week. Chelsea did not have it all their own way but their goals were well taken, their team shape was recognisable after the hodgepodge at Watford and their players put a shift in, which Conte desperately needed. A week ago, the performance brought back memories of that last Jose Mourinho season. This was the bounce Mourinho couldn’t get back then.
How different Chelsea’s short-term prospects look this morning, By the end of this week, they should be in the FA Cup quarter-finals — Hull, at home on Friday, are their fifth-round opponents — and anticipating the Champions League visit of Barcelona. This victory also returned them to the top four, at the expense of Tottenham. Normal service has resumed, for now at least.
Hazard has returned, too. West Brom are his favourite opposition and his two goals here took his league tally against them to seven, his best haul against any club. Both were perfectly taken but the second drew the biggest roar. Hazard collected the ball on the right corner of the penalty area, turned, came inside, got it on his favoured left foot and hit a low near-post shot of such ferocity and precision that goalkeeper Ben Foster might as well have bought a ticket for all the influence he could have on it.
By then, however, the game was pretty much over. Chelsea’s second had brought proceedings to a halt, punishing West Brom for a squandered chance to equalise shortly before. Salomon Rondon spurned this opportunity having out-muscled Andreas Christensen, and West Brom were made to pay. Instead of drawing level, they soon went a dispiriting two goals down.
Antonio Conte enjoyed a comfortable day at the office as Chelsea got their Champions League pursuit back on track
Hazard put Conte’s men ahead in the 25th minute with a fantastic finish following brilliant move by Chelsea
Hazard is congratulated by Giroud after linking up brilliantly with the former Arsenal man for the opening goal
Hazard pictured calmly slotting the ball past Baggies shot-stopper Foster on the quarter of the hour mark
Chelsea legend Frank Lampard celebrates Hazard’s goal from the stands as he paid a visit to watch his old club
Victor Moses surged into the box from the right and laid the ball to Cesc Fabregas, who attempted its return with an inventive back-heel flick. Instead of immediately finding its intended target, the ball took a ricochet off defender Craig Dawson but reached Moses anyway. His shot left Foster no chance and the result moved beyond doubt.
It was a strange atmosphere at Stamford Bridge to begin with: a little flat, a tad apprehensive. Not the sort of mood one would traditionally associate with the champions, or even a team in contention for a top-four place — certainly not when playing the bottom club.
Yet Chelsea’s form feeds trepidation and so it proved. West Brom actually started with more confidence. There were six minutes gone when Matt Phillips hit an excellent cross from the right, which Rondon should at least have got on target. Just five minutes later, a mistake by Moses inadvertently set up West Brom substitute Jay Rodriguez. He was one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois but panicked and snatched at his shot from distance, putting a weak effort well wide.
That West Brom had a substitute on so early was symptomatic of the type of luck that seems to hamper the doomed. Daniel Sturridge was brought in from Liverpool last month to transform West Brom’s season. An England striker, he was the type of good break every club down the bottom hopes to get. But there is a reason he is surplus to Jurgen Klopp’s requirements at Liverpool, and it surfaced here.
Just three minutes in he challenged Cesar Azpilicueta for a loose ball. Sturridge got a touch but tumbled over. It would be his only touch of the game. He went down, signalled to the bench that damage had occurred and his night was done.
If it is a longer-term knock the toll on West Brom is incalculable. They are running out of games now. They have won a single game in 25, but probably need at least five wins, maybe six, in their final 11 games to stay up. The odds are very much against them.
France international Giroud had to be bandaged up by the Chelsea physios after suffering a blow to the head
Spanish goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois desperately tries to deny defender Craig Dawson from heading home for West Brom
Jay Rodriguez spurned a golden opportunity to get the visitors on the scoresheet when he dragged his effort well wide
On-loan Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge limps off after just three minutes as he is replaced by fellow striker Rodriguez
The Rodriguez scare spurred Chelsea into action. It made a difference having a target man in Oliver Giroud, and no doubt that was Azpilicueta’s intention when he whipped in a cross after 17 minutes. Giroud couldn’t get there but Davide Zappacosta did, stealing in at the back post but unable to beat Foster.
If there was a criticism of Giroud at Arsenal — and let’s face it, there was — it was that he needed too many chances to score a goal. Certainly, he should have got his first for Chelsea after 20 minutes when a low, square cross of great cunning from Hazard picked him out perfectly. He had time, his position was perfect but he shot straight at Foster. Four minutes later, however, he made up for it.
This was Hazard’s goal, and Hazard’s lovely invention that undid West Brom, but Giroud did his bit. Hazard received the ball outside the area and charged, laying it off to Giroud, who returned the perfect wall pass. Hazard, momentum up, gauged the target area and let fly. Foster had no chance. Relief inside the stadium was palpable.
Still, if Giroud’s play was not always convincing — he was substituted after 60 minutes having given a series of passes away — his bravery was. He took an accidental kick in the head — he was on the floor at the time, there was no malice — from Ahmed Hegazi just before half-time. Plenty of claret, plenty of bandages.
That didn’t stop him from attempting a header from a Pedro cross soon after, or from soldiering on despite a rather more vindictive kicking from Jonny Evans shortly before half-time. He was what Chelsea have needed. So was this.
Belgian winger Hazard takes a free-kick during the early stages as Ahmed Hegazi looks to get his head on the ball
Gianfranco Zola, Tore Andre Flo and Gianluca Vialli were paraded on the pitch in front of the Chelsea fans at half-time
Both teams line up ahead of kick-off on Monday night under the floodlights at Stamford Bridge